AFSCME 3299 has long boasted on its website that it’s the “University of California’s Largest Employee Union.”
Now it can add a new title: Best Union at Stealing Money After Janus.
Sarah Johnson (not her real name), an employee of the UCLA health system, was approached by an organizer for AFSCME 3299 one month before the Janus v. AFSCME decision that freed public servants from choosing between paying union dues and keeping their jobs. The encounter was a surprise to Sarah because it was the first time in four years she’d seen anyone from the union do anything at her workplace.
The union staffer explained that Sarah needed to fill out a new union membership form since the previous forms were “expired.” Translation: The previous forms would allow you to opt out of your union dues under the pending Supreme Court case. The union organizer also informed Ms. Johnson that she would be fired if she did not fill out the new union membership form.
On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for worker freedom in Janus v. AFSCME and Sarah called her union to make sure her dues would cease immediately. Unfortunately, she had no idea of the tangled web AFSCME 3299 had already woven to avoid complying with the law.
After multiple unproductive phone conversations with her union, Sarah found an opt-out letter on the Freedom Foundation’s website, OptOutToday.com. On July 10, she mailed the form to her union.
Less than a week later, AFSCME 3299 responded and informed Sarah that the letter she submitted to cancel her union dues did not have “sufficient information necessary to verify that these are, in fact, your wishes.”
The letter instructed Sarah to fill out AFSCME 3299’s own “membership cancelation form,” which requests the same information as the opt-out letter she’d already submitted.
Fortunately for Sarah, she got in touch with the Freedom Foundation before signing AFSCME 3299’s form.
This form contains language that expressly waives all rights associated with union membership and simultaneously agrees to pay “service fees” equal to union dues, indefinitely.
AFSCME 3299’s letter provided that Ms. Johnson may stop the “service fee payments” if she submitted yet another form 75 days prior to her one-year anniversary of signing the “updated membership card” that locked her into these “service fees” to begin with.
It is maddening to see the kind of deception and cunning schemes that unions are coming up with to trap their unwilling members into indefinite payments. Perhaps unions should instead spend their energy devoting themselves to be worthy of their members’ dues in the first place.
Clearly unions cannot be trusted to do the right thing on their own and the Freedom Foundation is prepared to help. In Sarah’s case, the Freedom Foundation has agreed to provide pro bono legal representation for her and our attorneys will do everything they can to ensure the union complies with its legal obligations and stops engaging in these deceptive tactics toward its members.